License article

Small bumps for Virgin in switch to Sabre

Virgin Australia has experienced minor teething problems on its first day of a new booking and reservations system but the airline insists the transition has been relatively smooth.

The airline’s head of corporate affairs, Danielle Keighery, said there had been some delays of up to 40 minutes at Sydney Airport but on a network-wide basis the switch to Sabre’s global distribution system had ‘‘gone reasonably well’’.

‘‘Even this morning during peak hours the queues were not particularly long ... when you consider this is the first time [the system has been operated] in a live environment,’’ she said.

‘‘Whilst we have had some delays across the network, they have been minimal. We haven’t had to cancel flights.’’

Some passengers experienced problems logging into Virgin’s website this morning but the problem was later resolved.

So far, the biggest challenge has been a large increase in the number of passengers turning up at Virgin’s counters at airports because they could not access the airline’s website at the weekend to check in.


‘‘Our focus is on the next two weeks and getting [the new system] into our operations so that we have stable on-time performance,’’ Ms Keighery said.

She said more than 80 per cent of flights across its network were on-time on Sunday.

The airline is still advising passengers to turn up for flights earlier than usual this week as staff use Sabre’s global reservations system for the first time in live situation.

The transition to a new reservations and check-in system was seen as a big test for both the airline and Sabre. About half of Virgin’s 8000-strong workforce has undergone training for the new system over the past year.

The airline had amassed a small army of computer experts and support staff at the weekend to cope with the change from the Accenture-owned Navitaire system, which is typically used by budget airlines.

The airline will book a one-off cost from implementing Sabre, which will be disclosed when it releases its half-year results next month.

It has not revealed the ongoing cost of the more expensive Sabre system, saying only that ''there was no material difference'' to using Navitaire.

Although the transition to the system had run relatively smoothly so far, industry insiders expect it to encounter some teething problems in the longer term.

Virgin has said the new system will allow it to better link its services to alliance partners such as Etihad and Singapore Airlines, as well as making its flights more visible to travel agents around the world.

The change will also result in Virgin switching its flight code from DJ to VA.

Qantas uses Amadeus as its primary reservations system but also has an agreement with Sabre. The airline’s budget offshoot, Jetstar, runs on a Navitaire system.